Ed Stetzer on Complementarians in Closed Rooms

Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, serves as a dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group. The Exchange Team contributed to this article and have edited it since it was posted.


“Locker room talk,” President Trump called his Access Hollywood hot mic recording. His defenders quickly came to help, saying that kind of talk happens when the guys are alone.

Well, I’ve never heard a conversation quite like that in a locker room, but I’ve heard more than one dismissive conversation about a woman leader in complementarian settings.

Complementarians in closed rooms too often show their misogyny, not just their theology.

Geneva Commons

Yesterday, many saw what some Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) elders were saying about Aimee Byrd, commenting on her appearance, her face, her sexuality, and her relationship with her husband, all at a Facebook group called Geneva Commons.

These are quotes from some of the screenshots which Byrd linked/posted, published from a private Facebook group, allegedly including some officers in her Orthodox Presbyterian denomination. They include comments about her and about women in general, and many more than these are at Byrd’s site, but here are a few examples:

“I wish her husband loved her enough to tell her to shut up.”

“they become man-haters because they’ve used up their sex capitol.”

“Why can’t these women just take their shoes off and make us some sandwiches!?!”

The comments are quite stunning, but also are revealing.

Beth Moore

This incident reminded me of an online interaction between Beth Moore and Thabiti Anyabwile. In 2018, Beth posted an open letter that courageously called on her brothers in Christ to stand against inappropriate treatment of women.

If you have not read it, you should.

In “A Letter to My Brothers,” Beth wrote of the often awkward and uneasy reality of being a woman who wrote Bible studies in a world of complementarian men. But she observed something deeper than having to relate to complementarians and evangelicals:

I came face to face with one of the most demoralizing realizations of my adult life: Scripture was not the reason for the colossal disregard and disrespect of women among many of these men. It was only the excuse. Sin was the reason. Ungodliness.

After sharing real examples from her own experience, she made an appeal:

I’m asking that you would simply have no tolerance for misogyny and dismissiveness toward women in your spheres of influence. I’m asking for your deliberate and clearly conveyed influence toward the imitation of Christ in his attitude and actions toward women.

That same day, Thabiti responded with a post in which he apologized for words spoken behind closed doors about Beth Moore. Thabiti said in part:

I’ve been in rooms where your name was mentioned with disparaging tone. And rather than ask a few basic questions (how do you know this about her, do you have any evidence you can point us to, and so on), I said and did nothing. I wasn’t any different from Saul standing by holding clothes while Stephen was stoned.

Although I was not in those rooms he mentions, I know the rooms that Thabiti is talking about and I’ve warned Beth Moore about who said those words.

Complementarianism, Misogyny

Let me be clear, I’m not trying to make a case about egalitarianism and complementarianism in this short article. Both Beth Moore and Aimee Byrd have ministered in complementarian denominations, and have made their cases to their brothers and sisters in those contexts. They can describe and define their own views just fine—they don’t need me to do that for them. However, I just ordered Byrd’s Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: How the Church Needs to Rediscover Her Purpose to learn more about her approach.

But, what both of these situations show is that the Venn diagram of reformed, complementarian, and misogynist has a pretty significant overlap that some people of character—men and women together—need to address in those movements.

That at least involves the OPC and PCA, and from my up-close and personal observations, plenty of spaces in the SBC.

Now, let me be clear. We are often quick to get defensive whenever anyone challenges our views. But we rarely spend the same amount of time addressing behaviors that are deeply hurtful to our sisters and dishonoring to Christ.

My friend Amy Whitfield put it this way while on an SBC panel:

The discussion surrounding complementarianism is very different than any other theological debate, because everything about it is incredibly personal. The way this debate is handled directly impacts the way we are treated.

Then, when these discussions descend into derogatory comments about women, we need to call it what it is.

That is misogyny.

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Source: Christianity Today